Saying they’re worried about construction vehicles on a narrow private road and the development of a long-untouched wooded parcel that straddles the Noroton River watershed, residents of Indian Waters Drive are raising concerns about the water company’s plan to subdivide and sell large piece of land at the end of their cul-de-sac.
Aquarion’s approximately 19-acre property occupies a wildlife- and wetlands-heavy parcel bordered by the points of three dead-ending roads—Indian Waters Drive, Welles Lane and Thurton Drive.
Peter Fazekas, Aquarion’s director of public relations, told NewCanaanite.com that the company has entered an agreement with one neighbor who wants to purchase 8.3 acres contiguous to his or her property, and will pursue a 2-lot subdivision of the roughly 10 remaining acres, with frontage on Indian Waters Drive.
Yet for Susan Bergen, a resident of the private road, the Aquarion parcel is a “perfect piece of property to put into preservation.”
“This property is sort of in a green belt with a bunch of others in this town that form a corridor for wildlife and bird life,” Bergen said.
Indian Waters Drive includes 15 homes whose owners sign deeds that guarantee they will not allow access to any developer, Bergen said.
“It is a small country road, we maintain it, and don’t want to have increased traffic, especially not construction and we are also concerned because the road is very narrow and we’re not sure it’s wide enough to allow construction [vehicles],” she said.
Any land sales undertaken by Aquarion require approval from the state agency that oversees utilities in Connecticut, the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority. According to Fazekas, Aquarion will file with PURA in early March with an eye on getting a response in August.
In the meantime, the utility is getting soil testing and appraisals done now and will kickstart the local application process to subdivide—filing with Inland Wetlands and Planning & Zoning, for example, in April, Fazekas said. (With subdivision applications, the town under the New Canaan Zoning Regulations can require a conservation easement set-aside of up to 10 percent of the original property.)
The land in question here is known as “class three” in Aquarion, Fazekas said—a watershed designation that means it’s still sellable.
“Our real estate department is always looking at our land, at what makes sense to keep and what makes sense to sell,” he said. “This particular property doesn’t really have any water utility-related use. That is the reason we are selling it.”
The property has belonged to successive water companies for at least 109 years, tax records show, and was acquired by Aquarion in 2002 as part of the utility’s purchase of Connecticut American.
Indian Waters Drive resident Bill Pike said opportunities to preserve large untouched parcels such as this as open space “don’t come along very often.”
“I think something should be worked out, if at all possible,” he said.
Pike added: “It is something that will affect the town 100 years from now and you have to grab those opportunities while you can, so I want to see something worked out where that land is open space for the good of all New Canaanites.”
Avery Stirratt of Indian Waters Drive said the roadway itself—which has cost homeowners there nearly a quarter-million dollars to maintain and replace over the years—is 13 feet wide at the bridge that spans the Noroton River and 15 feet wide in others.
“We would like to keep that [property as] open space and try to figure out a solution where we can make that happen,” Stirratt said.